It’s Not All Mary Poppins

I Want my Child to be…


Ask any parent what they want for their children, and they will almost certainly include, they may even start with, “happy”.

Brace yourselves: Mary’s about to go all counter-cultural again.

After years of watching families and children, I don’t think happiness is a wise goal. In fact, I don’t really see it as a goal at all. Happiness, my friends, is a by-product. It’s like those stars in the night sky, the stars which, when you look directly at them, vanish, but when you focus elsewhere, they pop into view.

What do I see as better, truly valid goals for one’s children? Well, that they be kind, compassionate, considerate people. That they learn that others matter as much as they do. That they learn to treat others with the very respect they, themselves, crave. That they live up to their fullest potential, whatever that potential may be – whether or not it’s exactly what mom and dad might have had in mind! That they have solid self-esteem (which is NOT brute egotism).

If your child is all those things, odds are good he or she will be happy much of the time. Not all the time; happiness is fleeting, after all. Petty irritations, fatigue, disappointments – all these can reduce or remove your feeling of “happiness”. It will come back, of course, but if happiness is a goal, if happiness is something that you feel you have a right to, then every time you’re not at the peak of happiness, you will feel dissatisfied, robbed, that life is not dealing properly with you.

If your goal is to be the best person you can be, then, when happiness recedes temporarily, you will be able to ride the low point – without the additional burden of a feeling of personal begrudgement!

If your goal for your child is his/her happiness, then every time s/he cries, you will feel failure. If your goal is to mold a strong and giving human being, then when they cry you will feel compassion, of course (or exasperation, as the case may be!), but you will know that maturity, like anything worth having, doesn’t come easily. There will be tough times, there will be tears and tantrums, along the way. It’s life.

I am a mother. Of course I want my children to live happy, fulfilling lives. However, I firmly believe they will not achieve that if their lives are merely a mad shallow scramble for happiness. They will achieve that, I hope, by being strong, kind, considerate, resilient and respectful human beings.

Update: This post won Lucinda and MommaK‘s a “Perfect Post”, nominated by Lady M. Thanks!

A Perfect Post

© 2006, Mary P

July 8, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | 22 Comments